Review: ‘Czlowiek Z Zelaza’

Man of Iron uses the same screenplay writer, the same key actors, and the exact same thematic approach (an interview technique) employed in Man of Marble, which covered the post-war years in Poland from the period of the Personality Cult to the Gdansk riots of 1970 and a little beyond. Man of Iron backtracks slightly to take up the main thread of the story from 1968 (the student reform movement) to August 1980 (the historic signing of the strike settlement at the Lenin Shipyards). Pic features the passion and determination of Maciet Tomczyk (Mateusz Birkut's son), one of the 'second line' of workers in the Strike Committee headed by Lech Walesa.

Man of Iron uses the same screenplay writer, the same key actors, and the exact same thematic approach (an interview technique) employed in Man of Marble, which covered the post-war years in Poland from the period of the Personality Cult to the Gdansk riots of 1970 and a little beyond. Man of Iron backtracks slightly to take up the main thread of the story from 1968 (the student reform movement) to August 1980 (the historic signing of the strike settlement at the Lenin Shipyards). Pic features the passion and determination of Maciet Tomczyk (Mateusz Birkut’s son), one of the ‘second line’ of workers in the Strike Committee headed by Lech Walesa.

It is August 1980. Winkiel (Marian Opania), a radio news reporter from Warsaw, is sent to do a hatchet job on Tomczyk (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) one of the strike leaders at Gdansk whose past record shows that he is a key figure in the movement. Upon arriving in Gdansk, Winkiel also discovers that Tomczyk’s wife, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), has been arrested by the police in order to investigate her part in aiding the striking workers.

Winkiel can’t even get into the shipyards with his Polish press pass. He does, however, meet a young TV technician, Dzidek (Boguslaw Linda), a classmate of Tomczyk’s at the university, who invites him to see footage on the August 1970 riots never released. He also tells, in flashbacks, the story of Tomczyk’s bitter disappointment when his father did not support the 1968 student movement.

Winkiel then meets three women: Tomczyk’s mother, who has come all the way from Zakopane; Anna Hulewicz and her elderly mother, who offer eyewitness information on the death and burial of Birkut (some of the strongest scenes in the film); and Tomczyk’s wife, Agnieszka, the student reporter in Man of Marble.

Man of Iron records history on the run. Less than eight months were required to make this historical epic, also slated as a five-hour TV series in Poland. The lensing communicates a feeling of restless energy and urgency. The actors, down to the least bit role, perform unaffected before the camera.

Czlowiek Z Zelaza

Poland

Production

Film Unit X/Film Polski. Director Andrzej Wajda; Screenplay Aleksander Scibor-Rylski; Camera Edward Klosinski; Editor Halina Prugar; Music Andrzej Korzynski;; Art Director Allan Starski

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1981. Running time: 140 MIN.

With

Jerzy Radziwilowicz Krystyna Janda Marian Opania Irene Byrska Boguslaw Linda Wieslawa Kosmalska
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